REMEMBER: The Hudson Valley's True Last Frost Date is May 30th. Some years it is earlier, but you risk the chance of frost damage if you plant tender annuals before this time.
Spring can fly by if we have a warm spell, so remember to smell the daffodils before they are gone!
This time of year the weather can be quite unpredictable: warm sunshine one day and then snow and wind on the next, so don't uncover all of your snug perennials just quite yet as they could suffer frost burn.
Perennial gardens can benefit if you do a few things this early in the season. First off, if you have any ornamental evergreen perennials such as liriope, hellebores, bergenia, ferns, ivy, etc. you should trim off the old leaves soon to make way for new growth and flowers. It is harder to cut around the new leaves so time your clean-up accordingly.
Many herbs are evergreen such as lavender, rue, thyme, sage and germander and benefit from a small trim to promote fresh spring growth. Cut about 1/4 to 1/3 of the plant back and trim out dead branches as well. Give these herbs a dose of pelletized lime if you have acidic or regular soil.
When conifers push out their new growth it is the best time of year to trim them back. If you are trying to maintain a size, cut back the 'candle' (new stem of growth on pines, spruce, yews, etc) about 3/4 of the way. Most conifers prefer acidic soil and benefit from a dose of Espoma Hollytone fertilizer in the spring. Yews are the exception and honestly don't really need fertilizer unless they are suffering from damage or disease.
Just after Azaleas, Andromeda (Pieris), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia), Rhododendrons, Forsythia and Lilacs bloom, prune them. If you prune any other time of the year, you cut off the buds that form after they bloom for next years show. Use an acid fertilizer such as hollytone on all but the forsythia & lilacs, which prefer limey soil.
Hydrangeas are always a big question. Annabell hydrangea and tree types such as Tardiva, Grandiflora and Oak Leaf can be cut anytime. Big Leaf/Snowball/Japanese/French and Lacecap Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) need to be pruned delicately after they push out a bit of new growth in the spring or you can cut off their flower buds. Once the leaves are 1/2 inch long you will see which stems are dead and which tips are dead as well. It is also a good idea to prune out about 1/4 of the oldest, thickest stems to promote vigor in the shrub. If you have planted a blue variety and want to ensure blue flowers, feed your Hydrangea Ammonium Sulfate.
Most roses should be pruned in mid April. Cut out the oldest 1/4 of stems(unless you have climbing or landscape roses, see below) and trim down the canes to about 1/3 their original height. The new flowers & leaves will grow from the 'nodes' or little knobs on the stem.
On climbing roses you should leave the old stems and prune out all dead wood first. Then 'tip' all of the lateral buds growing out of the main stem and weave into the structure it is climbing. Climbing roses bloom off of the lateral buds just like their relatives apples, pears & peaches. Landscape roses don't need to be pruned very much, just trim any excess growth and reshape. Occassionally you can take out the old canes to promote vigor. Feed roses with Rosetone in Early May, and then again aboutn once every other month through the summer. They thrive from extra food and will give you extra flowers to thank you for it.
All ornamental grasses should be cut back to the ground this time of year especially cold season grasses like Calamagrastis which start growing very early in the spring. Miscanthus should be divided every 2-4 years or else they can start to take on the 'ring' growth syndrome and loose vigor. Just dig up the clump and take a sharp knife to it and cut into quarters. Expand your garden or surprise a gardening friend. Grasses love food, so compost or use osmocote in the spring.
Once the ground is thawed, pull out any weeds or unwanted volunteers and cut off dry dead leaves and flowers of perennials. Remember the leaves around the base offer protection from cold frosts and shouldn't be removed until later in April when the temperature will most likely stay warmer at night and not zap the tender shoots hiding just below.
On the other hand, it is important to rake up all plant debris out of your perennial garden before it warms up too much as many pests and disease overwinter and hide in the leaves. A thick pile of leaves can also smother delicate perennials and should be removed before they resume spring growth. Mulching is a nice way to start off the year as it gives the garden a fresh look for the coming explosion of spring color!
An inch or so top dressing of compost or aged manure acts as a natural fertilizer. You can also use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote in mid-April. They are small pellets that release plant food every time it rains out and last for up to four months. You will see a difference in your gardens if you feed them, with many more flowers healthy foliage, robust growth and disease resistance.
Gardener's Autumn: September 1-November 30
Our first frost is usually around October 15th.
Leaves leaves leaves!! Rake those leaves. Get discounted plants and know that the fall is a great time to plant most perennials and trees. NOTE: Don't plant warm weather grasses like Miscanthus as they don't do very well.
Enjoy our amazing palette of foliage. We get some of the best colors in the world, so get out there and garden in the brisk, refreshing weather.
Pick those vegetables and store for the winter. Many veggies will overwinter if you mulch them like Carrots, radicchio, arugula, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, leeks....
Gardeners Winter: November 30-March 1
Ahhh, time for a rest... almost.
Trim back the unruly perennials, but also remember that many seed pods and foliage look pretty amazing after a snow storm and lend texture and interest in the garden.
Plant deciduous holly for their bright winter berries as well as ornamental grasses and conifers for winter interest. If you plant Hellebore or Witchhazel shrubs, you will have a very early delight after a long and cold winter. Don't forget the bulbs! Plant bulbs in November for a great spring show.
Later in the winter you should plan and start planting your seedlings for next year if you have room &/or time. There is nothing like growing your plants from seed.
Read those gardening catalogs and daydream of warmer and sunnier days ahead.
GROW GREAT GARDENS all season long!
Gardeners Summer: June 1-August 31
Summer brings with it warm days and nights and usually lots of flowers and sunshine. It is important this time of year to stay on top of weeding and watering. Go out early or later in the day to avoid the heat waves & humidity.
Weeding:The more energy you put into preventing weeds in the young days of your garden, the less energy that you will have to put into it in the future.
Weeds: A weed is an unwanted plant. Weeds usually spread prolifically and have little aesthetic quality in the garden. Some weeds such as dandelions, wild chives, chicory, garlic mustard, plantain & stinging nettle, to name a few, are pretty delicious edible plants and have high nutritional values. Note: Pick Stinging Nettles with gloves for obvious reasons. The 'sting' will go away after a boil in water.
Weeds spread by seeds and/or root runners. -If you can pull weeds out before they go to seed, you will prevent a possible infestation of new generations of hundreds of new weed seedlings in your garden.
Some ornamental plants have 'weedy' tendencies and need to be dead-headed and/or thinned out annually such as Lambs Ears & certain Rudbeckias & Echinaceas.
It is important to pull out weeds that spread by runners as well. They can cover large areas in a short amount of time and many of them are ground-cover or climbing types of weeds.
Pick your flowers for an indoor bouquet to light up your house or to make a lucky someone smile. Plant your veggies & annual seedling outdoors in early June for great summer harvests. Enjoy the colors & bounty of the summertime.